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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Personal Thanksgiving

Deb Owen has two terrific, related posts this week on her "8 hours & a lunch: a search for balance & sanity" blog. (As an aside, she happens to be unmarried and childless, in case you thought that working moms were the only ones looking for those two things!)

Tuesday's post concerning making "gratitude" a daily practice is a reminder that it's worth remembering - often - that while we spend a lot of our time and energy going after what we don't have, or bitching about what we can't have, we can forget to appreciate what we do have. It may sound Pollyanna-ish, especially if it looks like we don't have very much - and in that case, you might try looking at it from a relative perspective ("At least I'm not as bad off as so-and-so...") - but we probably have more than we realize. Deb's suggestion that we take a few minutes every day to be grateful isn't really radical, or even new, as she acknowledges - the "Gratitude Journal" was first popularized in the book Simple Abundance in the mid-1990's - but she suggests that it's potentially life-changing.

let me make a suggestion. take five minutes. just start with five. get up and be grateful. breathe. think of five things that are just great in your life. think of the people in your life to be grateful for. it will absolutely change your entire day. think of the roof over your head, your new iPhone, the dog (or cat, if you must). if you're having that bad of a time of it right now, then just be grateful that you're breathing! be grateful for what you have right here, right now. and breathe.

"gratitude is the memory of the heart." it's remembering all the times that things have gone right. it's remembering all the good things that people have done for you. it's remembering your family taking care of you when you were sick or that friend that reminded you that you are beautiful just when you needed it. it's remembering every smile that meant something or the guy that held the door open for you at the gas station or that time that you felt that sense of accomplishment finishing a big task.

every major religion and even the spirituality crowd all talk about the benefits of gratitude. gratitude will lower your blood pressure. gratitude will also change your approach and make you more open. gratitude, it turns out, is the starting point for other things coming into your life. gratitude will also get you closer to silence, and to being able to hear that intuition that will tell you exactly what the next steps to take are.

five minutes. just to take a moment and be grateful in whatever way works for you.

Wednesday's post is a companion piece emphasizing that appreciating what you have is not the same as settling, if what you have isn't really what you want in your life - the post is titled "it's called gratitude, not groveling (do. not. settle.)." Being "grateful" that we have anything at all, because we don't feel like worthy of any more, isn't what we're after here - it's how we become stuck and unhappy. At some level we know that, because we've chosen it, even though usually it's one of those situations where it feels like we don't have any choice, and that's how we got there in the first place. She also makes an important distinction between compromise, which can be a perfectly valid short-term solution, and settling, which is pretty much giving up.

gratitude is not about settling. you know how it happens. we get tired. we give up, if only a little...and then we decide to settle. that's right. we decide to. we choose to. that realization can hurt. because it puts the responsibility squarely on our shoulders for where our lives are at that moment. but it's the truth. we choose to settle. and settling is just a form of giving up.

you know how it happens, we choose to ignore that little voice..we get into the marriage or into the job, and we convince ourselves that we are so unworthy that we should be grateful to have anything at all. and we sit there. stuck. unhappy. wondering.

we wonder what we could do if we tried. we wonder what it would have been like to take a different path. and now that we're on the wrong one and unwilling to move, frozen in fear of losing what we didn't really want in the first place, we become more and more entrenched in a life not meant for us.

compromise. yes. take the job that isn't the job if it's a stepping stone to get you where you want to be. if it provides experience or education that leads you in the direction you want to go, then take it....for now. but don't give up.

I can see how the "gratitude practice" might lead to complacency if you think you're life's pretty good, but I think what Deb's two posts are trying to put across is that it can be truly empowering and inspiring, and I'm going to give it a try. Especially now, I have much more to be grateful for in my life than I've had for a long time.

3 comments:

  1. hey there... neat blog. it looks like you read a fair amount... a couple internet friends and i are putting together a blogspot reading community. i hope you'll check it out (it's in its infancy right now, but) and maybe think about joining.

    thebookbook.blogspot.com

    it's meant to be a kind of low-commitment virtual bookclub. maybe it's up your alley.

    in any case, nice blog!

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  2. hi florinda! wow! thanks for this post and summary!

    and yes. i'm single and childless, but still search for balance and sanity. (i have a tendency to be a workaholic. yep. i do.) i have a demanding job, am in school, am on the membership committee of my local HR association, sing with a local community orchestra, am involved with my local church, pursue photography as a hobby, am about to start freelancing on the side as a way to start a business, have friends to attend to, family to attend to, and the most fabulous dog in the world....and that's just the tip of the iceberg! in short, there's just not enough time for all the things in the world that i want to do. (ha)

    but part of the reason i try to remember that it's about balance is because of exactly what you're pointing out about these two posts. gratitude is a must, but too much gratitude can be turned into complacency and settling for things that really aren't right for us. not settling is good, but not without a healthy dose of being thankful for what you have and enjoying your life right now....right in the moment. otherwise, you'll be so busy not settling that happiness will just pass you by.

    thanks for reading!
    and thanks again for this post!
    all the best!
    deb

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  3. Deb - You're a very busy person! I've been reading your blog for a few months now, and was really struck by these two posts of yours (I left you comments over there, so you know). Thanks for making the time to write them, and to stop by over here.

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